SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is issuing a record-number of concealed gun permits this year, spurred by a spike in applications in early 2013 that state officials believe was triggered by mass shootings across the country last year and talk of more gun control measures.
Utah has already issued more concealed gun permits this year than any of the previous nine years, show state figures from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. They expect to issue more than 135,000 by the end of the year - up from an average of about 75,000 the previous four years.
The spike in applications began in January when they doubled from the previous month. It continued for the next three months when more than 18,000 applications each month - more than double the monthly totals from the same time the year before. Only a tiny percentage of applicants are denied.
"We had bins and bins of applications during those three months," said Alice Moffat, chief of the Bureau of Criminal Identification told a Utah legislative committee this week.
Moffat believes the mass shootings in 2012 - at Colorado movie theater in July and a Connecticut elementary school in December - and the talk of possible gun control measures spurred people from around country to seek out Utah's concealed weapons permit.
"We feel that's why we got those numbers there," said Moffat this week, while adding, "And then there was the talk of gun control and that seems to spur people getting their concealed firearm permits."
About two-thirds of the permits Utah has issued since 1994 have been to resident from other states. In 2011 and 2012, about eight in 10 concealed weapons permits went to out-of-staters.
Thirty-five other states recognize conceal weapons permits issued in Utah, Moffat said.
Adam Eaton, co-owner of Joe Firearms in Sandy, Utah, told the Deseret News that he also see his business pick up when the public believes gun control laws could change. His store sold 200 so far this year, up from 50 the year before.
"You're getting knee-jerk reactions and you're getting people panicking," Eaton told the newspaper.
Gun-owner's fears about government coming for their weapons are fanned by the National Rifle Association and other groups, said Gary Sackett, a member of the board of directors at the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.
"It plants kind of a hysteria in people," Sackett said. "They think if somebody is going to get my guns, I better go gets some more guns."
The busy year brought a windfall of funds to Utah, with the state bringing in $2.3 million in surplus from the applications, Moffat said.
Applications cost $46 for Utah residents and $51 for non-residents. The permits last five years, and cost $15 to renew.
Not everyone is happy about Utah approving so many permits for concealed weapons.
"It concerns me on a global basis," Sackett said. "This state contributes to the proliferation of concealed weapons throughout the country."